FORT PAYNE — When Albertville’s 6-foot-7, 265-pound center Trinity Bell wasn’t creating problems for the Fort Payne boys in the paint, his teammates added to the defensive challenge by making outside shots.
After trailing by 16 points at the half, the Wildcats could only get to within 11 in the third in a 77-56 loss in their home opener Tuesday night.
“We tried to spread (Albertville) out a little bit, tried to force (Bell) to come outside and guard us,” Fort Payne coach Michael Banks said. “We were able to make a few shots there and kind of got a little rhythm going, but we couldn’t sustain it because we couldn’t get any stops on the defensive end.
“We could maybe make a couple of 3s in a row, but then it seemed like we’d always give up a couple or make a mistake defensively that would cost us.”
Lane White scored a game-high 25 points and Bryson Richey had 14 points for Fort Payne (0-2).
Malik Turner passed to Richey on the left side for a transition 3-pointer with 2 minutes remaining in the third to cut Albertville’s lead to 47-35, before Richey assisted Eli Kirby on a 3-point basket that made it 49-38.
Zion Davis stole a pass and finished with a dunk and Caydin Blunt added a layup with 17.1 remaining in the period to extend Albertville’s advantage to 55-41 heading into the fourth.
“It’s not just defending size, (Bell) is also a pretty good passer,” Banks said. “If you collapse on him, he’s going to find open shooters. ...It’s a tough matchup all the way around when you have what I consider five really strong players and more off the bench who play really well.”
A jumper from White, a driving layup from Turner and two additional 3-pointers from Richey highlighted Fort Payne’s third-quarter effort to narrow the halftime deficit.
Bell led the Aggies (2-0) with 20 points and Chi Jordan and Ben Allen added 10 points apiece.
Bell received an outlet pass and drew an intentional foul as he dunked to give the Aggies a 22-13 lead with 6 minutes left until halftime. He was awarded two free throws but missed both attempts.
“A lot of times you can play good defense against (Bell), but if he’s in the right spot where the shot comes off, it’s even hard to get the rebound,” Banks said. “Defensively, I thought we played OK on him. We just didn’t meet our goals, as far as keeping him off the boards. Credit to him; he’s big and strong and hard to keep off the boards.”
The Wildcats play in a tournament at Geraldine, beginning Monday. They play Asbury at 5 p.m. Monday, before playing Fyffe at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Geraldine at 8 p.m. Wednesday.